The ELEX review

Write Piranha Bytes and immediately comes to mind the saga that consecrated them, that of Gothic. The first two chapters were a success, considered by the press of the time to be the "true" version of Ultima IX. The third also made a lot of talk about itself, but for one of the most controversial case histories of the videogame industry. He is the star of Gothic who with his light continues to illuminate the stage of the German software house, forcing it to a life in the spotlight. A limelight that does not let Bjorn Pankratz and his historical collaborators work in serenity: it is undeniable that with each new production of Piranha Bytes the bar of expectations is always very (too) high, in the hope that he can repeat the glories of his first work. He had tried in vain with the Risen trilogy, greeted with affection only by the hard core of the base, and he tries again with ELEX, a new intellectual property presented to the specialized press in 2015. The release was initially scheduled for the autumn of last year. , but the work was completed only a few days ago: it is time to write our impressions.

Some History

The beginning of the script has always been an Achilles heel of the team based in Essen and ELEX is no exception: a comet hits the highly advanced planet Magalan, bringing with it, in addition to the destruction of civilization, also the powerful material (Tiberium ?) hence the title of the game. The populations are divided into four clans fighting for supremacy: the Berserkers reject any kind of technology to follow a lifestyle close to nature whose magical properties govern; the Clerics forbid the taking of Ellex in pure form but exploit its properties for the creation of powerful weapons; Finally, the Outlaws are anarchoids who do not preclude themselves from any possibility with regard to the substance arrived from space. The Alba faction is the most powerful, since it includes a small group of elect who manage to consume Elex without being overwhelmed by its devastating side effects: the only consequence is the loss of emotions that makes them similar to robots. These super-men are about to plan the final attack for control of Magalan, when the raider piloted by Commander Jax is mysteriously shot down. The cruel code of honor of the Alba provides that, in the event of failure, the person responsible is eliminated, but something goes wrong at the moment of execution and our protagonist, stripped of both the equipment and the skills conferred on him by the Elex, has a way to rewrite their own history from scratch.

The ELEX review

Trailer that passes you

If you too, looking at the trailers that Piranha Bytes released in the stages of approaching the exit, have begun to have more than a few doubts about the goodness of the project, you are justified: the emphasis (inevitably, considering the few minutes of video) was placed on combat and environments, two of the less successful aspects of ELEX. The biggest breaking point with past productions concerns the setting itself: a mixture of fantasy, contemporary and post-apocalyptic elements that thrives on a few highs and too many lows. Although we avoided the risk, rightly pointed out in the preview phase, of falling into the most tamarro kitsch, the work has absolutely not convinced us. Paradoxically, the feeling is that the designers have had the fear of treading too hard, with the result that the four regions (as many as the guilds), are devoid of truly characterizing elements. Edan, the hunting ground of the Berserkers, is a typical fantasy ecosystem where abandoned industrial complexes, hydroelectric plants, some remnants of asphalt are found instead of the classic huts (however present): but there is nothing that tells more in depth about the life before the disaster.

The ELEX review

The Clerics live in Ignadon, inside the crater created by the impact of the comet, in a context in which stylistic features belonging to the Warhammer 40,000 universe can be recognized. The most successful area is that of the Outlaws which refers to the post-atomic visions of Mad Max and the large group that was inspired by him (Wasteland, Fallout), where, however, the presence of characters in sword and shield clashes even more. In summary, there is a considerable variety of situations, but the illumination of a harmonic view that would certainly have benefited the entire production is lacking. The game map, while not reaching the exaggerations of certain sandbox titles, is really large (about one and a half times that of Gothic 3 according to the estimates of the programmers) and the only way to explore it is with your own legs. Of course, the fundamental teleportation portals cannot be missing, but they are positioned in not exactly "obvious" points and require a lot of exploration (or a special skill) to be found. The level of interaction with the environment is only discreet: most of the action takes place outdoors but there are only a few more buildings that can be explored than in the past. The jetpack is an important element of the gameplay that has allowed a very unusual vertical development by the standards of the German society (even if in some cases it seemed almost excessive); on the other hand, the waterways are present but it is not possible to dive into them. Such variety does not find the right correspondence in the park of enemies, consisting mainly of other picturesquely decorated human beings, robots, a sort of zombie fruit of the Alba experiments with the Elex and some creature changed by radiation among which the newborn species stands out. of the Boar Markers and the return of the velociraptors.

The ELEX review

comfort zone

The main reason why Piranha Bytes has chosen to move away from the comfort zone is above all to be able to boast the title of RPG with the greatest variety of weapons: these premises have in fact allowed the developers to combine broadswords, shields, axes, grenade launchers and rifles at the same time. plasma, bows and magic. This consideration allows us to analyze the other aspect on which strong doubts have arisen, that of the combat system. Visibly modified compared to that of Risen 3, it is now closer to returning an experience similar to that experienced in the first Gothic and therefore rougher and rougher, but in a certain sense also more functional to the profound role-playing cut given to the videogame. As proof of what is written there is the return of stamina, which is consumed both to escape with the classic somersaults, and to rage with sidearms. There are two types of attacks: the first, light, is carried out with the left mouse button, while the heavy one with the E button.

The ELEX review

Once you reach a good combination, a special one is activated that allows you to inflict even more significant damage. The biggest problems mainly concern the coupling of the camera, which is automatically "glued" to the enemy displayed: during single battles it does not create any problems, but can lead to various headaches when there are more enemies attacking the player. Furthermore, the feeling of distance from the enemy is often lost, with the result of slashing or, worse still, making parries useless. Defense is the other Achilles heel of the combat system, because in fact the evasion by somersault is unusable due to the high consumption of stamina and the slowness of the protagonist in completing the maneuver: thus you run the risk of being hit (with painful consequences, unlike what we complained in Risen 3), right in the middle of a side jump, with the result of no longer having the strength to counterattack and the dangerously low health bar. The use of the jetpack in combat, heavily sponsored during the presentation videos, in practice is marginal and does not significantly affect the dynamics of the clashes, while on the other hand it is very useful in case of escape. Futuristic and contemporary weapons deserve a separate discussion, whose damage rate has been deliberately weakened: this paradox was necessary in order not to create excessive imbalances between weapons.

The ELEX review

A further clue confirming that we could easily do without this minestrone setting. As it should be clear, Elex's combat system is anything but pleasant and immediate, yet it is extremely functional to the Piranha Bytes project, according to whose philosophy it is not necessary to have great skills in using the keyboard. (or of the joypad) because if the level of the enemy is too higher than that of Jax, the only way forward is that of the escape (or the loading screen). Eliminating a pack of raptors that you had to escape from at first is gratifying: a satisfaction that cannot be appreciated in a few minutes of gameplay, and which consequently can only be enjoyed by a hard core of old-school players.

Old school

ELEX is a role-playing game of yesteryear, in which the focus is first of all on the characters, on the dialogues, on the growth of the protagonist even before the fighting. The plot starts, as usual, a bit 'with difficulty, but it starts to get interesting from the first hours of the game. The dialogues flow pleasantly and, despite having lost the ironic edge of Risen, they are often pleasant, with tangible ramifications and consequences also in terms of the development of other quests and of the character, whose alignment depends precisely on the answers given. Certainly there is no shortage of typical clichés of the genre, but the key figures have a good personality and an attitude that changes according to the opinion towards the player.

The first impact is a bit unsettling: we find ourselves lost near a dilapidated shed and only the help of Duras, a Berserker warrior, will give an address to the epic of Jax, devoted to the search for those who hit and moved him from the desire for revenge against those who were once his brother and who then tried to kill him. The incipit, however, lays bare one of the many weak sides of the Piranha Bytes RPG, that of balance, as it forces you to undertake a warrior path even if the player's intentions may be different. The camps of the other factions are in fact very far from the initial base and to reach them it is necessary to travel along roads infested with enemies that can only be faced with a good dose of strength and robustness. If we add to this that the specialization of the other two races is not as obvious as in the classic RPGs (in which, for example, the elves are excellent archers and the tough dwarves warriors) the result is that, at least in the first game, it is not easy to understand in which direction develop Jax. As usual, one cannot act on the aesthetic aspect of the protagonist, who resembles Jason Statham without unfortunately approaching the charisma of the British actor, while his physical characteristics can be increased which, as in the best tradition, are five: strength, constitution. , dexterity, intelligence, cunning. Each level increase is assigned both points to spend to enhance these items, and skill points that are equally fundamental to refine the effectiveness in the use of a specific talent. There are about 70 divided into six categories, and they can be learned from the masters scattered around Magalan. The difficulty level, set to normal, is high: the first hours are spent trying to complete all those quests that do not take us too far from the safety of the base. As soon as the adventure requires you to go into the woods, an improbable challenge begins: even the clash with the most ramshackle giant rat becomes a fight for survival and very often the only option is to beat a retreat, since, fortunately, the level of difficulty is not dynamic. Hence the need to get help from Duras right away (he is the first, but not the only one among the possible allies) and to send him to the massacre trusting in his statistics (much higher than those of the player), while trying to assist him. at least worst. The programmers claim that you can kill almost all non-player characters, with heavy consequences in the development of the plot, but this does not happen with the companions who can still be knocked out for a few minutes.

The ELEX review

The quests are many and often branch out, and many of these also have consequences in the development of the main story. Obviously, the most significant decision concerns the choice of the guild with which to ally, since from that moment the other two will become enemies. This is an element that recurs in all the Piranha Bytes titles and that continues to have a bite although it can no longer be defined as truly innovative, but there are also many other dialogues that change the course of events and whose outcome is clearly highlighted by messages. on screen.

Many weapons, few weapons

Growth is slow and penalized by another style we have learned to live with since Gothic: the shortage of objects dropped by enemies. Killing a cleric armed with a hammer or an Alba who fires a laser rifle will be absolutely useless for the purposes of the equipment since it will never be possible to recover the weapons with which they attacked. There is no armor around even looking for it with a match and the magical relics in the lands of Magalan can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

The ELEX review

It goes without saying that the only way to increase the awkward initial inventory is to turn to the shops in the towns, but this choice clashes with the great variety heralded by programmers, given that the merchants get paid at high prices and then continue for long stretches of the game always with the same weapon. Speaking of inventory: we did not like the screen at all, it appeared too dispersed (also because the graphic rendering of the objects that are equipped is missing) and with a cumbersome navigation especially in the selection phase of the quests to follow. The fact that Jax's bag is like St. Patrick's well and that therefore we can carry an indefinite number of objects with it then seemed to us a little guessed choice. Artificial intelligence is scholastic: as soon as you enter the enemy's range of action, he is magnetically attracted by Jax who can only get rid of him by moving considerably away from the meeting point. There is also the crafting system along the lines of that of Risen, based mostly on the collection of plants and minerals, with which you can create potions and even food, or upgrade existing weapons and armor.

The ELEX review

Good but not great

Let's face it clearly: those who buy ELEX certainly don't do it for its aesthetic sector. The programmers have gone to great lengths to bring the venerable Genome Engine up to date, as demonstrated by a video a few days ago, but the technical and economic limitations are not easy to disguise.. The number of polygons is not high and above all the animations are very woody: this is especially evident in the fighting, where there is a clear feeling that the warriors are fighting with some obstacles too many. On the particle effects front, we save the dynamic lighting that highlights a chromatic palette where dull colors such as ocher and olive green are the masters: the bright shades of the latest Risen are a distant memory. The alternation between day and night is also good, some atmospheric effects less well: above all the rain seems to appear without warning even in areas where theoretically it should not fall. The textures appeared a bit washed out, especially with regards to the buildings and armor of the Alba. At least laudable is the fact that the title is within the reach of a large fleet of machines and that in practice there are no loads or slowdowns in the passage between one environment and another.

The ELEX review

The musical commentary is sufficient, with a soundtrack that, although not memorable, knows how to make itself heard when needed, especially during fights. The dubbing, in English only, did not particularly impress us; present subtitles in Spanish. The version we tested was press-only and not without numerous technical bugs, some of which were fixed almost in real time. We happened to face a "broken" quest (the NPC did not provide any reward), to be chased by rats for more than half the map, to die from being "crashed" from 10 cm in height. At some junctures seemingly affordable enemies have become relentless war machines, at others Jax has stopped responding to inputs for a few seconds. In short, a real work in progress that could create some headaches for the players in the first minute. The title is available for Xbox One (the programmers say they are also working for an "enhanced" release for Xbox One X) and PlayStation 4, as well as for PC, the platform on which we tested it and which of course we recommend as before. choice. Longevity is excellent, given that it exceeds well over forty hours and that the presence of three factions guarantees a good degree of replayability.

PC System Requirements

Test Setup

  • Operating system: Windows 10 64-bit
  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 1700
  • Memory: 16 GB of RAM
  • Video card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070

Minimum requirements

  • Operating system: Windows 7/8.1/10 64bit
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 3570 or AMD FX-6350
  • Memory: 8 GB of RAM
  • Scheda video: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 2GB o AMD Radeon HD 7850 2GB
  • DirectX: 11 version
  • Memory: 35 GB of available space


Tested version PC Windows Digital Delivery Steam, GoG, Origin, Humble Store, PlayStation Store, Xbox Store Price 44,99 €


Readers (50)


Your vote

ELEX leaves a bad taste in the mouth for some unhappy choices, above all the setting too confusing and disharmonious: for a role-playing game that makes the atmosphere and the plot one of its strengths, this is an aspect that is anything but secondary . The combat system is another of the most critical aspects of the new Piranha Bytes game, but in its intricacy it has the advantage of fitting well into the gameplay philosophy. The plot as a whole is pleasant and well inserted in the context, even if starting with the usual initial uncertainty, and the dialogues are well structured and able to add curiosity to the player in the following. The graphics sector, while not excellent, manages to return a good immersion in the game world. In the coming weeks, the usual patch work should eliminate the inevitable defects of youth and balance a growth system that has not always seemed consistent. Too bad that Piranha Bytes did not insist with the fantasy setting, otherwise we would find ourselves in the hands of that sort of Gothic remake that so many nostalgics have been asking for a long time.


  • The plot, after a stammering start, arouses interest
  • In-depth dialogue with multiple answers
  • Great character growth system
  • The setting is anonymous
  • Tough combat system
  • Technical and balancing bugs
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